[IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

Howard Fortson Howard at cps.ca.gov
Thu Dec 10 11:30:51 EST 2009

I think your idea has quite a bit of merit. As it moves more into the job tryout type of testing. Not that it would solve all representation issues but definitely worth serious consideration. As to your last part about the lack of fires, I've been wondering why we keep hiring so many firefighters if there are no fires. With the budget crunch I would think that communities are soon going to separate medical calls from fire and privatize the medical portion in order to have the cost savings (City and County costs). It just seems like that could be the next blip on the horizon. Just a bit of rumination in deficit laden California.

Howard Fortson Ph.D.

-----Original Message-----
From: ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org] On Behalf Of Joel Wiesen
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2009 8:11 AM
To: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: [IPAC-List] Call for new models for fire promotional exams

The recent thread on Ricci prompts this email on an idea that has
intrigued me for years.

We (and the fire service) might consider reconceptualizing fire
promotional exams. I see promise for improving
productivity/effectiveness and reducing adverse impact.

Consider the job of Fire Lieutenant. The current promotional exam
process is designed to select people who can do the job of Lieutenant
immediately on appointment.

Typically, the only entrance requirement for a promotional exam is
several years experience in the next lower title (e.g., as a Firefighter
for the job of Lieutenant).

To the extent that promotional exams test supervisory KSAPs, the current
promotional exam system leaves firefighters largely or completely to
their own devices to learn the job of Lieutenant. (Yes, often there is
a published reading list, however, the books do not address the
complexities and range of application of strategy and tactics seen in
firefighting, perhaps because real-world fire situations are so varied
and complex.)

There might be alternative promotional exam systems that would have less
adverse impact while maintaining or improving overall job performance of
Lieutenants, especially new Lieutenants (say for the first 5 or 10 years
on the job). For example, the fire department might offer training
classes for promotion to Lieutenant, designed so that successful
completion of the classes could serve as an entrance requirement for the
promotional exam. It may well be that all students would master the
material, as is typically seen in fire recruit training programs. The
promotional exam might then focus on past job performance (reliability,
customer service, cautiousness, judgment, etc.)

Any thoughts?


P.S. I suggest Fire Lieutenants might take 5-10 years to master
strategy and tactics because there are so few fires in most
municipalities (due to improvements in the building codes over past
generations). One Fire Chief told me he sends new Lieutenants to a
nearby large city to get experience fighting fires, as there are so few
fires in his community.

Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director
Applied Personnel Research
62 Candlewood Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040
(617) 244-8859

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